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This is an extract from:

The Crusades from the Perspective

of Byzantium and the Muslim World
edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh

published by
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
Washington, D.C.

© 2001 Dumbarton Oaks

Trustees for Harvard University
Washington, D.C.
Printed in the United States of America

The Historiography of the Crusades

Giles Constable

I. The Development of Crusading Historiography

The crusades were from their inception seen from many different points of view, and
every account and reference in the sources must be interpreted in the light of where,
when, by whom, and in whose interests it was written.1 Each participant made his—
and in few cases her—own crusade, and the leaders had their own interests, motives,
and objectives, which often put them at odds with one another. They were all distrusted
by the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komnenos, whose point of view is presented in the
Alexiad written in the middle of the twelfth century by his daughter Anna Komnene.
The Turkish sultan Kilij Arslan naturally saw things from another perspective, as did the
indigenous Christian populations in the east, especially the Armenians, and the peoples
of the Muslim principalities of the eastern Mediterranean. The rulers of Edessa, Antioch,
Aleppo, and Damascus, and beyond them Cairo and Baghdad, each had their own atti-
tudes toward the crusades, which are reflected in the sources. To these must be added
the peoples through whose lands the crusaders passed on their way to the east, and in
particular the Jews who suffered at the hands of the followers of Peter the Hermit.2
The historiography of the crusades thus begins with the earliest accounts of their
origins and history. Aside from some studies of individual sources, however, and a num-
ber of bibliographies and bibliographical articles,3 the historiography has received com-

This article is a revised version of the paper presented at the symposium. It concentrates on general prob-
lems concerning the crusades to the east. The references to secondary works are illustrative and are not de-
signed to give a bibliography of the crusades. I am indebted to Benjamin Z. Kedar for various suggestions. A
shortened version of part I will appear (in Russian) in the forthcoming Festschrift for Aaron Gurevich.
The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades, ed. and trans. S. Eidelberg
(Madison, Wisc., 1977). Among secondary works, see most recently D. Lohrmann, “Albert von Aachen und
die Judenpogrome des Jahres 1096,” Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsvereins 100 (1995–96): 129–51.
H. E. Mayer, Bibliographie zur Geschichte der Kreuzzüge (Hannover, 1960), and idem and J. McLellan, “Se-
lect Bibliography of the Crusades,” in A History of the Crusades, ed. K. M. Setton (Madison, Wisc., 1955–89),
6:511–664. Other general bibliographies are L. de Germon and L. Polain, Catalogue de la bibliothèque de feu M. le
comte Riant, pt. 2 (Paris, 1899), and A. S. Atiya, The Crusade: Historiography and Bibliography (Bloomington, Ind.-
London, 1962), which has a section on historiography (17–28). Among the review articles, see G. Schnürer,
“Neuere Arbeiten zur Geschichte der Kreuzzüge,” HJ 34 (1914): 848–55; T. S. R. Boase, “Recent Develop-
ments in Crusading Historiography,” History, n.s., 22 (1937): 110–25; J. La Monte, “Some Problems in Crusad-
ing Historiography,” Speculum 15 (1940): 57–75; J. A. Brundage, “Recent Crusade Historiography: Some
Observations and Suggestions,” CHR 49 (1964): 493–507; F. Cardini, “Gli studi sulle crociate dal 1945 ad
oggi,” RSI 80 (1968): 79–106; and H. Möhring, “Kreuzzug und Dschihad in der mediaevistischen und orienta-
[ 2 ] Historiography of the Crusades

paratively little attention from scholars. The only general works are a long and still useful
appendix to the first (but not the second) edition of Heinrich von Sybel’s Geschichte des
ersten Kreuzzugs, which appeared at Düsseldorf in 1841 and was translated into English
in 1861, and the two volumes (in Russian) by M. A. Zaborov entitled Vvedenie v istorio-
grafiju Krestovykh pokhodov (Introduction to the historiography of the crusades), which
deals with the medieval sources, and Istoriografija Krestovykh pokhodov (XV–XIX vv.) (His-
toriography of the crusades [15th–19th century]), which were published in Moscow in
1966 and 1971 respectively.4 To these can be added a long article, partly historiographical
and partly bibliographical, by Laetitia Boehm entitled “‘Gesta Dei per Francos’—oder
‘Gesta Francorum’? Die Kreuzzüge als historiographisches Problem” and a chapter by
Jonathan Riley-Smith on “The Crusading Movement and Historians” in the Oxford
Illustrated History of the Crusades.5 It is interesting, and perhaps significant, that there is no
sustained treatment of historiography in the general histories of the crusades by René
Grousset, Steven Runciman, and Hans Eberhard Mayer, nor in the six-volume coopera-
tive History of the Crusades edited by Kenneth Setton.
The historiography of the crusades as seen from the west, with which this article is
concerned, can be divided into three periods, of which the first, and longest, went from
1095 until the end of the sixteenth century; the second covered the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries; and the third began in the early nineteenth century and comes
down to the present. There was some overlap between the periods, but broadly speaking,
during the first, the Muslims were a continuing threat to Western Europe and the de-
fense of Christendom was seen as a pressing concern. In the second period, the crusades
moved increasingly into the past, but a past that was colored by confessional or rationalist
values, which changed in the third period, when the crusades were subjected to serious,
though not always impartial, scholarly investigation. This third period breaks down into
the nineteenth century, when the crusades were generally well regarded, and the twenti-
eth century, when there has been a rising tide of criticism and, more recently, a growing
division between scholarly and popular views of the crusades.
Interest in the crusades today is still influenced by political and ideological interests,
including the consequences of European colonialism, the tensions between western and
non-western societies, especially in the Middle East, and, more broadly, the legitimacy
of using force to promote even worthy and legitimate causes.6 These concerns contrib-

listischen Forschung 1965–1985,” Innsbrucker historische Studien 10–11 (1988): 361–86. See also H. E. Mayer,
“America and the Crusades,” PAPS 125 (1981): 38–45; C. R. Young, “The Crusades: A Tragic Episode in
East-West Relations,” South Atlantic Quarterly 55 (1956): 87–97; and the collection of reprints and excerpts in
The Crusades: Motives and Achievements, ed. J. A. Brundage, Problems in European Civilization (Boston, 1964).
H. von Sybel, Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzugs (Düsseldorf, 1841), 148–80, trans. L. D. Gordon, The History
and Literature of the Crusades (London, 1861), 311–56; and M. A. Zaborov, Vvedenie v istoriografiju Krestovykh
pokhodov (Moscow, 1966) and Istoriografija Krestovykh pokhodov (XV–XIX vv.) (Moscow, 1971). For these refer-
ences I am indebted to Alexander Kazhdan, who also summarized the contents for me.
L. Boehm, “‘Gesta Dei per Francos’—oder ‘Gesta Francorum’? Die Kreuzzüge als historiographisches
Problem,” Saeculum 8 (1957): 43–81, and J. Riley-Smith, “The Crusading Movement and Historians,” in The
Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, ed. J. Riley-Smith (Oxford, 1995), 1–12. See also L. Boehm, “Die
Kreuzzüge in bibliographischer und historiographischer Sicht,” HJ 81 (1962): 223–37.
P. Rousset, Histoire d’une idéologie: La croisade (Lausanne, 1983), 206–8; K. Armstrong, Holy War (London,
1988), xiii–xiv; J. Riley-Smith, “History, the Crusades and the Latin East, 1095–1204: A Personal View,” in
Giles Constable [ 3 ]

uted to the change from the comparatively favorable attitude toward the crusades that
prevailed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries into a more critical, and even
hostile, view. Steven Runciman, in the conclusion to his History of the Crusades, called
the crusades “a tragic and destructive episode” and said that “the Holy War itself was
nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is the sin against
the Holy Ghost.” 7 Geoffrey Barraclough echoed this view in 1970: “We no longer re-
gard the crusades . . . as a great movement in defense of Western Christendom, but
rather as the manifestation of a new, driving, aggressive spirit which now became the
mark of Western civilization. We no longer regard the Latin states of Asia Minor as
outposts of civilization in a world of unbelievers, but rather as radically unstable centers
of colonial exploitation.” He attributed this change in “our verdict on the Crusades” to
“our experience of total war and the hazards of living in a thermonuclear age. War is
always evil, if sometimes an inescapable evil; Holy War is the evil of evils.” 8 And John
Ward described the crusades in 1995 as “a movement of violent white supremacist colo-
nialism.” 9
This view is now common in works addressed to the general public, including popular
presentations and movies. A leaflet distributed in Clermont during the conference held
in 1995 to commemorate the summons to the First Crusade was headed “The Cru-
sades—did God will it?” echoing the crusading cry of “Deus le volt.” It went on to ask
“Can the Church memorialize the Crusades without asking forgiveness?” and called on
the pope to deny that any war can be holy and that sins can be forgiven by killing pagans.
According to this view, the crusaders were inspired by greed and religious fanaticism and
the Muslims were the innocent victims of expansionist aggression. Many scholars today,
however, reject this hostile judgment and emphasize the defensive character of the cru-
sades as they were seen by contemporaries, who believed that Christianity was endan-
gered by enemies who had already overrun much of the traditional Christian world,
including Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and who threatened to take over the remainder.
Almost all the historians and chroniclers of the expeditions that were later called the
First Crusade considered them a response to the Muslim threats to Christian holy places
and peoples in the east.10 They wrote from different points of view, however, and used

Crusaders and Muslims in Twelfth-Century Syria, ed. M. Shatzmiller, The Medieval Mediterranean 1 (Leiden-
New York-Cologne, 1993), 7–8; and idem, “Revival and Survival,” in Oxford History (as in note 5), 386.
S. Runciman, A History of the Crusades, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1952–54), 3:480.
G. Barraclough, “Deus le volt?” New York Review of Books, 21 May 1970, 16.
J. Ward, “The First Crusade as Disaster: Apocalypticism and the Genesis of the Crusading Movement,” in
Medieval Studies in Honour of Avrom Saltman, Bar-Ilan Studies in History 4 (Ramat-Gan, 1995), 255. Cf. on the
current unfavorable view of the crusades M. Balard, Les Croisades (Paris, 1988), 9; Riley-Smith, “History” (as in
note 6), 1–2; and the review of T. Jones and A. Ereira, Crusades, by M. Evans, D. Green, and J. M. B. Porter in
Nottingham Medieval Studies 39 (1995): 201.
C. Erdmann, The Origin of the Idea of Crusade, trans. M. Baldwin and W. Goffart (Princeton, 1977), 8, 349;
E. Delaruelle, Idée de croisade au moyen-âge (Turin, 1980), 23; and J. Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?
(London-Basingstoke, 1977), 22–33, who stressed the recurrence of “the ideas of liberation (another word for
recovery) and defence” (23) and said that “a crusade, whenever and against whomsoever it was aimed, was re-
garded as being essentially defensive” (29). See also J. Flori, “Guerre sainte et rétributions spirituelles dans la 2e
moitié du XIe siècle,” RHE 85 (1990): 627–28, on the concept of the legitimacy of recovering wrongly taken
[ 4 ] Historiography of the Crusades

varying terminology and biblical passages.11 Guibert of Nogent stressed the apocalyptic
and millenarian aspects, and Ekkehard of Aura the supernatural and physical phenomena
that preceded and accompanied the crusade. Many writers had their own heroes. The
roles of Godfrey of Bouillon and Peter the Hermit were central for Albert of Aachen;
Bohemund of Taranto in the anonymous Gesta Francorum; his nephew Tancred for Ralph
of Caen; Raymond of St. Gilles for Raymond of Aguilers; Baldwin of Boulogne for
Fulcher of Chartres; and Godfrey of Bouillon again in the crusader epics, which domi-
nated the popular perception of the crusades down to the nineteenth century. Odo of
Deuil in his history of the Second Crusade concentrated on the activities of Louis VII
of France, and the accounts of the Third Crusade in the Estoire de la guerre sainte of Am-
broise and the Itinerarium regis Ricardi glorified the role of Richard I of England. The
greatest of all crusader historians, William of Tyre, wrote his Chronicon from the point
of view of a Latin Christian born and living in the east in order, he said, to record “for
the everlasting memory of the faithful of Christ” the way in which God “wanted to
relieve the long-lasting oppression of His people.”12
Innocent III in his crusading bull Quia maior of 1213 asked how anyone could “know
that his brothers, Christian in faith and name, are held in dire imprisonment among the
perfidious Saracens and most profoundly subjected by the yoke of servitude, and not
take effective action for their liberation . . . And indeed the Christian peoples held almost
all the provinces of the Saracens until the times of the blessed Gregory.”13 Even more
strikingly, the fourteenth-century Castilian magnate Don Juan Manuel wrote in his Libro
de los estados that the Muslims had conquered and held many lands that had belonged to
Christians “who had been converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by the apostles. And on
this account there is war between the Christians and the Muslims, and will be war until
the Christians have recovered the lands that the Muslims seized from them, since there
would be no war between them with regard to the law nor the religion (secta) that they
hold.”14 While the accuracy and realism of these views can be questioned, they reflect

P. Alphandéry, “Les citations bibliques chez les historiens de la première croisade,” RHR 90 (1929):
William of Tyre, Chronicon, 1.10, in CC continuatio mediaeualis 63:124. See P. Edbury and J. G. Rowe,
William of Tyre: Historian of the Latin East, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4.8 (Cambridge,
1988), 41. Von Sybel, Geschichte (as in note 4), 148–63, trans. 311–31, classified the sources for the First Cru-
sade (149, trans. 312) as sources (Quellen), legends (Sage), and William of Tyre, whose unique importance as
both a primary source and a secondary writer entitle him to a special place.
G. Tangl, Studien zum Register Innocenz’ III. (Weimar, 1929), 90, trans. L. and J. Riley-Smith, The Cru-
sades: Idea and Reality, 1095–1274, Documents of Medieval History 4 (London, 1981), 120. See J. Riley-Smith,
“Crusading as an Act of Love,” History 65 (1980): 177–92, citing this bull (191). P. J. Cole, The Preaching of the
Crusades to the Holy Land, 1095–1270 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 105, referred to Innocent’s “juridical concept
of the crusade as military service for Christ.” R. Röhricht, Kleine Studien zur Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, Wis-
senschaftliche Beilage zum Programm des Humboldts-Gymnasiums zu Berlin 58 (Berlin, 1890), 9–11, analyzed
the motives for the crusades given in papal bulls, including their necessity.
Don Juan Manuel, Libro de los estados, ed. R. B. Tate and I. R. MacPherson (Oxford, 1974), 53; see xl, dat-
ing it 1328 with subsequent revisions. According to V. Cantarino, “The Spanish Reconquest: A Cluniac Holy
War against Islam?” in Islam and the Medieval West: Aspects of Intercultural Relations, ed. K. I. Semaan (Albany,
N.Y., 1980), 98, “The Spanish Reconquest remained in its essence a territorial struggle.” See also R. A.
Fletcher, “Reconquest and Crusade in Spain, c. 1050–1150,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 5.37
(1987): 31–47, who said that reconquest was really conquest (46–47).
Giles Constable [ 5 ]

the attitude of most Christians in the Middle Ages and throughout the first period of
crusading historiography. The importance of irredentism in motivating the crusades has
been emphasized by many scholars, including Islamists like Norman Daniel, who said
that “every Christian reference to lands that had once been Christian, and particularly
to the Holy Land, must be understood to have been made on the assumption that these
were lost provinces belonging by right to the Latin Church.”15
The process of what has been called the affabulation of the First Crusade, by which it
became a “work of collective imagination” rather than historical reality,16 can be seen
already in the earliest accounts, which reflected the view of the crusade as it developed,
and perhaps as it should have been, rather than as it actually was. They were influenced
in particular by the capture of Jerusalem and the establishment of the Latin Kingdom
and crusader states, which were marks respectively of the success and the permanence
of the undertaking.17 This can be seen in the use made of the Gesta Francorum by Guibert
of Nogent, Baldric of Bourgueil, and Robert of Rheims, and of Fulcher of Chartres by
William of Malmesbury, and also in Albert of Aachen’s Liber christianae expeditionis pro
ereptione, emundatione, restitutione sanctae Hierosolymitanae ecclesiae, which was written about
1130 and was long considered the most reliable account of the crusade, but which de-
pends heavily on legendary material, especially concerning Peter the Hermit. Caffaro di
Caschifellone, writing in the mid-1150s, in addition to stressing the Genoese contribu-
tion to the First Crusade, saw its origins in a visit to Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon,
who on his return went with Raymond of St. Gilles and eleven other knights (to one of
whom the archangel Gabriel appeared) in order to plan the rescue of the Holy Sepulcher
from the Muslims.18
The history of the crusades thus became part of the ongoing propaganda, both official
and popular, for the crusading movement,19 and it is often impossible to distinguish
clearly between what would today be called primary sources and secondary accounts,
because the historical and contemporary concerns of the writers overlapped. “By the
1140s,” according to Riley-Smith, “the crusading experiences of previous generations,
and pride in them, had been locked deeply in the collective memory of some cousin-
hoods.”20 Pope Eugene III said at the beginning of Quantum predecessores, which opened

N. Daniel, Islam and the West (Edinburgh, 1960), 109, who went on to say that “this was more than a gen-
eral way of thinking. It had juridical and liturgical expression.” See also C. Cahen, “L’Islam et la Croisade,” in
Comitato internazionale di scienze storiche: X Congresso internazionale di scienze storiche, Roma 4–11 settembre 1955. Re-
lazioni, vol. 3, Storia del Medioevo (Rome, 1955), 629.
See, on affabulation, P. Alphandéry, La chrétienté et l’idée de croisade, ed. A. Dupront, Evolution de l’huma-
nité 38 and 38 bis (Paris, 1954–59; repr. 1995), 1:154.
E. O. Blake, “The Formation of the ‘Crusade Idea,’” JEH 21 (1970): 11–31, who stressed that the actual
course of events contributed to “a developing sense of pattern” (21), and J. Flori, “Mort et martyre des guer-
riers vers 1100. L’exemple de la première croisade,” CahCM 34 (1991): 121–39, who argued against the view
that the idea of martyrdom evolved in the course of the crusade.
Caffaro di Caschifellone, De liberatione civitatum orientis, in Annali genovesi di Caffaro e de’ suoi continuatori, ed.
L. Belgrano et al., Fonti per la storia d’Italia 11–14 bis (Rome, 1890–1929), 1:97–124.
J. M. Powell, “Myth, Legend, Propaganda, History: The First Crusade, 1140–ca. 1300,” in Autour de la
Première Croisade: Actes du Colloque de la Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East (Clermont-Ferrand,
22–25 juin 1995), ed. M. Balard (Paris, 1997), 127–41.
J. Riley-Smith, The First Crusaders, 1095–1131 (Cambridge, 1997), 102.
[ 6 ] Historiography of the Crusades

the Second Crusade, that “we learn from the account of former men and we find written
in their deeds how greatly our predecessors the Roman pontiffs labored for the freedom
of the eastern church,” and he went on to say that Urban II, thundering “like a sacred
trumpet,” had summoned “the sons of the Roman church” from various parts of the
world to free Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher “from the filth of the pagans.”21
The view of the crusades found in accounts written later in the Middle Ages depends
to a great extent on the sources used, but they were always presented as a response to
the external attacks of the Muslims and pagans or to the internal threats of heretics and
schismatics. The Turkish victories in the fifteenth century stimulated a new interest in
the crusades in writers who were ostensibly dealing with the past but were really con-
cerned with the present.22 Philip the Good of Burgundy’s devotion to the Holy Land
was inspired by political ambition as well as personal piety, and his image of himself as
the successor of Godfrey of Bouillon was fostered by his reading of the vernacular epics
of the crusades.23 Eneas Sylvius, the future Pope Pius II, abbreviated the sections on the
crusades in Flavio Biondo’s Decades and referred to the crusaders as “our Christians,” and
Benedetto Accolti’s Historia Gotefridi seu de bello a Christianis contra barbaros gesto pro Christi
sepulchro et Judea recuperandis, which appeared in 1464, was designed to promote a new
crusade against the Turks, who had recently taken Constantinople. It was included, pre-
sumably for this reason, among the primary sources published in the Recueil des historiens
des croisades.24 Accolti and other humanist historians hoped to find in the accounts of
previous crusades, particularly the First, both guidance and inspiration for the contem-
porary campaigns against the Turks. Even the Jewish chronicler Joseph ben Joshua ben
Meir, writing in the first half of the fifteenth century, wanted “the children of Israel to
know what they [the Christians] have done unto us” and saw the Muslims as the instru-
ments of divine vengeance on the Christians.25
In the sixteenth century the crusades tended to move into the past and to be treated
as part of national history, but crusading ideology was kept alive not only by the advances
of the Turks but also by the wars of religion. Etienne le Blanc wrote an essay in 1522 to
show that Louis IX “had not destroyed the Kingdom [of France] for his holy voyage
overseas,” and toward the end of the century François de la Noue and René de Lucinge

Otto of Freising, Gesta Friderici I. imperatoris, 1.35, ed. G. Waitz, MGH, ScriptRerGerm, 3d ed. (Hannover-
Leipzig, 1912), 55.
L. Schmugge, Die Kreuzzüge aus der Sicht humanistischer Geschichtsschreiber, Vorträge der Aeneas-Silvius-
Stiftung an der Universität Basel 21 (Basel-Frankfurt, 1987), and N. Housley, The Later Crusades, 1274–1580:
From Lyons to Alcazar (Oxford, 1992), 84, 99–100 (“From 1453 . . . the crusade became a simple matter of self-
interest”), 385, 388, 420 (“The fact that the golden age of crusading was, by about 1450, beginning to be
viewed in historical perspective, did not mean that the crusade itself had become history.”).
J. Paviot, “La dévotion vis-à-vis de la Terre Sainte au XVe siècle: L’exemple de Philippe le Bon, duc de
Bourgogne (1396–1467),” in Autour de la Première Croisade (as in note 19), 401–11.
RHC, HOcc, 5:525–620. See Von Sybel, Geschichte (as in note 4), 329–30; R. Black, Benedetto Accolti and
the Florentine Renaissance (Cambridge, 1985), 224–85, esp. 230 and 237; and Schmugge, Kreuzzüge (as in note
22), 12–13.
The Chronicles of Rabbi Joseph ben Joshua ben Meir, the Sphardi, vol. 1, trans. C. H. F. Bialloblotsky, Oriental
Translation Fund (London, 1835), 325, no. 436.
Giles Constable [ 7 ]

made use of crusading rhetoric in their polemics against the Turks.26 Catholics and Prot-
estants both saw themselves as soldiers of Christ fighting a holy war in defense of Chris-
tianity against the forces of evil.27 Pope Gregory XIII in 1580 offered the same indul-
gence given to crusaders to the Holy Land to the Irish who joined the expedition against
Queen Elizabeth.28 Echoes of crusading ideology continued in the seventeenth century,
as in the Civil War in England, and down into modern times, when any ideological
enterprise can be called a crusade, like Lloyd George’s The Great Crusade and Dwight
Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe. Reality changed after the battle of Lepanto in 1571,
however, and the huge success of the fictional account of the First Crusade in Tasso’s
Gerusalemme liberata, which was published in 1581, shows how far history had moved
from the realm of fact into that of fantasy, where it remained, in popular mentality, until
well into the nineteenth century.29
The second period of crusading historiography was meanwhile ushered in by the
appearance in 1611 of the important collection of primary sources on the crusades edited
by Jacques Bongars under the title Gesta Dei per Francos sive orientalium expeditionum et
regni Francorum Hierosolimitani historia and in 1639 of Thomas Fuller’s Historie of the Holy
Warre, which has been called, in spite of its prejudices, the first serious general history of
the crusades to treat them as fully in the past and to raise the question of their legiti-
macy.30 It has a remarkable frontispiece showing various groups of crusaders setting out
from Europe and returning from Jerusalem ravaged by the attacks of the angel (owing
to their perfidy and falsehood), the Turks, and death (Fig. 1), and an equally remarkable
introductory poem, signed only with the initials J. C., explaining the frontispiece and
concluding that:
Those that escap’d, came home as full of grief
As the poore Purse is empty of relief.
Fuller was a Protestant minister and wrote from a strongly anti-Catholic point of view.
The opposite is true of Louis Maimbourg, whose pro-Catholic Histoire des croisades came
out in the 1670s, with a dedication to Louis XIV, and was frequently reprinted and
translated into several languages. It is marked, according to Von Sybel, by the author’s

E. A. R. Brown, “A Sixteenth-Century Defense of Saint Louis’ Crusades: Etienne le Blanc and the Leg-
acy of Louis IX,” in Cross Cultural Convergences in the Crusader Period: Essays Presented to Aryeh Grabois on His
Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. M. Goodich, S. Menache, and S. Schein (New York, 1995), 21–48, and M. J. Heath,
Crusading Commonplaces: La Noue, Lucinge and Rhetoric against the Turks, Travaux d’humanisme et renaissance 209
(Geneva, 1986).
A. Wang, Der “Miles Christianus” im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert und seine mittelalterliche Tradition, Mikrokosmos
1 (Frankfurt a. Main, 1975), and P. Rousset, “L’idéologie de croisade dans les guerres de religion au XVIe
siècle,” SZG 31 (1981): 174–84. Many of the same biblical texts cited by the historians of the crusades were
used in the 16th century. V. J. Gellhaus, “Französische Kreuzzugsideen und Weltfriedensbewegung im Zeitalter
der Aufklärung” (diss., Munich, 1934) deals mostly with the 17th and 18th centuries.
H. Pissard, La guerre sainte en pays chrétien (Paris, 1912), 173–74.
Schmugge, Kreuzzüge (as in note 22), 46 n. 142, and E. Siberry, “Tasso and the Crusades: History of a Leg-
acy,” JMedHist 19 (1993): 163–69.
J. E. Bailey, The Life of Thomas Fuller, D.D. (London-Manchester, 1874), 173–81; Von Sybel, Geschichte (as
in note 4), 163, trans. 332; and Boehm, “Gesta” (as in note 5), 63–64.
[ 8 ] Historiography of the Crusades

self-confidence, religiosity, and “a trace of modern good sense,” but his hesitation be-
tween enthusiasm and skepticism was replaced in the eighteenth century by “a strong,
relentless opposition.”31
For the rationalist writers of all denominations in the age of Enlightenment, the cru-
sades were inspired by religious zeal, worldly motives, and ecclesiastical interference in
secular affairs. Voltaire in his book on the crusades, which came out in 1751 and was
incorporated (with some changes) into his Essai sur les moeurs, called the crusaders adven-
turers and brigands who were moved by “the thirst for brigandage,”32 and for Edward
Gibbon their principle was “a savage fanaticism,” though he expressed some grudging
admiration for their spirit and achievements.33 “The historical writing of the Enlighten-
ment,” said Boehm, “cultivated with regard to the crusades a one-sidedness of treatment
from which the nineteenth century only slowly freed itself”34 and which persisted longer
in the United States than in Europe. Ralph Waldo Emerson recorded in his journal in
1826 that the crusades had taken their place in public opinion “among the monuments
of folly and tyranny” and wrote to Charles Emerson in 1828 about the “shrill and evil
sound” of “a fanatic voice saying ‘It is the voice of God.’”35
By this time the tide of opinion had turned in Europe, ushering in the third period
of crusading historiography. A sympathetic attitude toward the Middle Ages, including
the crusades, emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries under the
influence of romanticism and nationalism and can be seen in the favorable depictions of
the crusaders in literature, art, and music, especially the novels of Sir Walter Scott, several
of which dealt with the crusades.36 They were “a holy war, purifying the Holy Land”
for Thomas Rowley and a response to “the call of piety and honour” for Kenelm Digby,
who converted to Catholicism in 1825 and whose Broad Stone of Honour, published in
1822, was widely read in the nineteenth century.37 The enthusiasm for medieval litera-
ture in France at this time has been called “a mythological revolution,” and the theme
of the crusaders’ return frequently appeared in both literature and art.38

Von Sybel, Geschichte (as in note 4), 163–64, trans. 332–33; Gellhaus, “Kreuzzugsideen” (as in note 27),
86–87; and Boehm, “Gesta” (as in note 5), 64–66.
Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs, 54, in Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, ed. L. Moland (Paris, 1877–85), 11:442.
J. H. Brumfitt, Voltaire Historian (Oxford, 1958), 68, said that Voltaire was “delighted to be able to show that
the crusades were not the result of lofty religious motives, but of a desire for plunder.” See Von Sybel, Ges-
chichte (as in note 4), 164–65, trans. 334; Gellhaus, “Kreuzzugsideen” (as in note 27), 90–92; and the introduc-
tion by H. Berr to Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 1:viii–ix.
E. Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 61, ed. D. Womersley (London,
1994), 3:727; see also chap. 58 (ibid., 563 n. 19), where he said that some critics called Bongars’s collection
Gesta diavoli per Francos, and the editor’s introduction in 1:xcix–c. See Gellhaus, “Kreuzzugsideen” (as in note
27), 95–97.
Boehm, “Gesta” (as in note 5), 70. Cf. Zaborov, Istoriografija (as in note 4), 76–144, on the Enlightenment
treatment of the crusades.
The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 3, 1826–1832, ed. W. Gilman and
A. Ferguson (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), 18, and The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. R. L. Rusk, vol. 1
(New York, 1939), 246.
J. Dakyns, The Middle Ages in French Literature, 1851–1900 (Oxford, 1973), 1–28, and E. Siberry, “Images
of the Crusades in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” in Oxford History (as in note 5), 365–85.
K. Morris, The Image of the Middle Ages in Romantic and Victorian Literature (London, 1984), 46, 105.
Dakyns, Middle Ages (as in note 36), 4, 17, 254–56.
1 Frontispiece to T. Fuller, Historie of the Holy Warre (Cambridge, 1640)
2 Illustration by Gustave Doré for the 1877 Paris edition of J. Michaud,
Histoire des Croisades
Giles Constable [ 9 ]

In historical writing this shift was marked by the appearance of two important multi-
volume histories of the crusades, one in Germany and the other in France. The first, by
Friedrich Wilken, was published between 1807 and 1832 and is still of scholarly value;
the second, by J. F. Michaud, appeared between 1812 and 1822 and was often reprinted,
including an edition published in Paris in 1877 with a series of illustrations by Gustave
Doré that mark a high point in the religious and nationalistic enthusiasm for the crusades
in France (Fig. 2).39 The decision of King Louis Philippe to include the family names of
French participants in the crusades in the Salle des Croisades at Versailles produced a
flood of forged crusading charters, which still occasionally mislead historians.40 A more
serious scholarly note was struck by the three volumes of pièces justificatives that accompa-
nied Michaud’s history and even more by his four volumes of translated sources, includ-
ing one from the Arabic. The Recueil des historiens des croisades, which includes editions
of primary sources in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Armenian, and Old French and is still a
standard work of reference, was officially launched by the Académie des Inscriptions et
Belles lettres in 1824.41 In the late 1830s Leopold von Ranke gave “the first impulse” to
a critical examination of the sources for the crusades in his seminar at the University of
Berlin, and his student Von Sybel put the study of the First Crusade on a new scholarly
basis in his Geschichte des ersten Kreuzzugs, which included, as mentioned above, the first
considerable study of the historiography of the crusades.42
In the second half of the nineteenth century, crusading studies continued to flourish
in Germany, where the names of Reinhold Röhricht and Heinrich Hagenmeyer in par-
ticular come to mind, and in France, where Paul Riant founded the Société de l’Orient
latin in the 1870s. Important contributions were also made by scholars in England, Italy,
and, somewhat later, the United States, where the study of the crusades was promoted
by the teaching of Dana C. Munro.43 The first task of these scholars was to prepare crit-
ical editions of the sources, assess their value, and to establish the facts of the history of
the crusades. This prepared the way for the appearance in the first half of the twentieth
century of some new general histories, addressed to the public as well as to scholars.
Among the most influential of these were the two works, both in three volumes, of
René Grousset, published in 1934–36, and Steven Runciman, whose History of the Cru-
sades was completed in 1954. These are basically narrative accounts, but Grousset as an
Orientalist and Runciman as a Byzantinist both saw the crusades in terms of east-west

On these works see Boehm, “Gesta” (as in note 5), 73–74, and on Wilken, Von Sybel, Geschichte (as in
note 4), 167–72, trans. 339–43, and on Michaud, ibid., 173–78, trans. 345–53, and Zaborov, Istoriografija (as
in note 4), 179–211.
G. Constable, “Medieval Charters as a Source for the History of the Crusades,” in Crusade and Settlement:
Papers Read at the First Conference of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East and Presented to R. C.
Smail, ed. P. W. Edbury (Cardiff, 1985), 73 and references in n. 3.
According to H. Dehérain, “Les origines du recueil des ‘Historiens des croisades,’” JSav, n.s., 17 (1919):
260–66, the first initiatives went back to the end of the 18th century.
Von Sybel, History (as in note 4), iii. See E. Fueter, Geschichte der neueren Historiographie, Handbuch der mit-
telalterlichen und neueren Geschichte, Abt. 1 (Munich-Berlin, 1936), 535–36; G. P. Gooch, History and Histori-
ans in the Nineteenth Century, new ed. (Boston, 1959), 120–21; and Zaborov, Istoriografija (as in note 4), 212–27.
The Crusades and Other Historical Essays Presented to Dana C. Munro by His Former Students, ed. L. J. Paetow
(New York, 1928). See also Mayer, “America” (as in note 3), 38.
[ 10 ] Historiography of the Crusades

relations, between either the Christians and Muslims or the Latins and Greeks.44 The
new international Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East has held
meetings in Cardiff, Jerusalem, Syracuse (N.Y.), and Clermont-Ferrand.
Meanwhile, a group of American scholars based at the University of Pennsylvania and
later at Wisconsin undertook a major collaborative history of the crusades, which was
published in six volumes between 1955 and 1989. It is interesting to follow the develop-
ment of this work from its conception in the 1930s and 1940s down to its completion
and to compare its coverage with that in the shorter, but also collaborative, Oxford Illus-
trated History of the Crusades. The Wisconsin history, as it is called, deals in considerable
detail with the factual history of each crusade, down to the fifteenth century, and has a
volume each on art and architecture and on the impact of the crusades respectively in
the east and in the west. The original plan was to devote the fifth volume to political and
economic institutions, agricultural conditions, crusading propaganda, western missions,
religious minorities, and social history. The sixth was intended to include an atlas and
gazetteer, but it turned out to be something of a catch-all and includes, in addition to
other material, a chapter on crusader coins and a long bibliography. The extensive treat-
ment given in this work to the late medieval crusades, to art and architecture, and to the
impact of the crusades in the east reflected the development of crusading studies during
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.45 The Oxford history devotes yet more
space to crusading in the late Middle Ages, to the military orders (to which the Wiscon-
sin history gave comparatively little attention, aside from a chapter on the Teutonic
Knights), and above all to the ideology and spirituality of the crusades, which has been
a subject of major interest to crusader historians since the publication in 1935 of Carl
Erdmann’s Entstehung des Kreuzzugsgedankens, which appeared in English in 1977 as The
Origin of the Idea of Crusade.46

II. Recent Trends in Crusading Historiography

More than any other single work written in the twentieth century, Erdmann’s book
changed the direction of crusading studies.47 He had been trained as a theologian, studied
under Paul Joachimsen at Munich, and worked on the Papsturkunden series and at the

On Grousset and his “colonialist” point of view, see especially Boase, “Recent Developments” (as in note
3), 116–22; H. Berr in his introduction to Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 1:ix; Cardini, “Studi” (as in
note 3), 82–83; Mayer, “America” (as in note 3), 41 (esp. n. 18); and on Runciman, Young, “Crusades” (as in
note 3), 87–97, and Cardini, “Studi” (as in note 3), 83–86.
See Mayer, “America” (as in note 3), 42–44, and D. Queller, “Review Article: On the Completion of A
History of the Crusades,” International History Review 13 (1991): 314–30, who discussed a number of other recent
works on the crusades.
C. Erdmann, Die Entstehung des Kreuzzugsgedankens, Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Geistesgeschichte 6
(Stuttgart, 1935); see note 10 above for the translation, which has additional notes by the translators.
Erdmann, as his title says, concentrated on the origin of the idea of crusade, not its later history, which
had already been studied, among others, by O. Volk, Die abendländisch-hierarchische Kreuzzugsidee (diss., Halle-
Wittenberg, 1911), who covered the popes from Leo IX to Gregory IX (omitting, somewhat oddly, Urban II),
and he broke, according to J. Richard in his introduction to Delaruelle, Idée (as in note 10), vii, with the thesis
that “the crusade was explained above all by its end: the Holy Land.” Barraclough, “Deus le Volt?” (as in note
Giles Constable [ 11 ]

Monumenta Germaniae Historica. He therefore combined the tradition of German intel-

lectual history or Geistesgeschichte, which emphasized the ideas underlying the observable
events of history, with a rigorous training in source-criticism. He was not alone in his
interest and approach. Etienne Delaruelle and Paul Alphandéry in particular wrote along
parallel lines at almost the same time as Erdmann, though their works were published
later. The series of articles by Delaruelle published between 1941 and 1954 under the
title “Essai sur la formation de l’idée de croisade,” and republished together in 1980,
originated in a thesis presented at the Institut Catholique in Paris in 1935, the same year
Erdmann’s book appeared.48 Alphandéry’s two posthumous volumes on La chrétienté et
l’idée de croisade, published in 1954 and 1959, were based on his lectures at the Ecole des
hautes études before his death in 1932.49 As a historian of religion, Alphandéry was
interested in the spontaneous and charismatic aspects of the crusades, of which he found
the essence in the expedition led by Peter the Hermit and in the so-called popular cru-
sades, to which the Wisconsin and Oxford histories devoted comparatively little atten-
tion, aside from a chapter on the Children’s Crusade in the Wisconsin history.
Contemporaries for the most part had no clear concept of the ideology of crusading,
which lay to a great extent beneath the surface of the events. There was not even a single
generally accepted term for a crusade.50 At their origins, and indeed throughout the
Middle Ages, crusades were usually referred to by terms, both in Latin and the vernacu-
lar, indicating movement or travel, such as peregrinatio, iter, via, expeditio, and later passag-
ium, and the corresponding verbs, often combined with a reference to Jerusalem, the
Holy Land, the Holy Sepulcher, or the cross, and in the vernacular with outre mer or über
meer. They often expressed a religious engagement or desire (negotium, bellum, causa, opus,
voluntas, or later simply crux), and referred to its sacred character or to God, Christ, or
Jerusalem. Although the early crusaders were sometimes referred to as signed with or
bearers of the cross,51 the cross did not become the mark of crusading, as distinct from
pilgrimage, until the end of the twelfth century. The earliest known use of crozada is in
Spain and southwestern France in the early thirteenth century, but it remained rare, as
did croiserie and croisade, and crusade was not common in English before the eighteenth

8), 14 n. 3, called Erdmann’s book “by far the most important contribution to crusading history in the last gen-
eration.” For some reservations see J. Gilchrist, “The Erdmann Thesis and the Canon Law, 1083–1141,” in Cru-
sade and Settlement (as in note 40), 37–45, and M. Bull, “The Roots of Lay Enthusiasm for the First Crusade,”
History 78 (1993): 355–59.
E. Delaruelle, “Essai sur la formation de l’idée de Croisade,” Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 42 (1941):
24–45, 86–103; 45 (1944): 13–46, 73–90; 54 (1953): 226–39; 55 (1954): 50–63; reprinted in his Idée (as in
note 10), 2–127, with an introduction by J. Richard.
An interesting account of Alphandéry and of Dupront’s edition of his work is found in M. Balard’s post-
script to the reprint (Paris, 1995), 565–93. Balard praised the work especially for its concern with the interior
history of the crusade and with the history of collective mentality and psychology (575), but said that since the
1980s it has been more cited than used, especially by English-speaking scholars.
The single best discussion of this topic, which is mentioned by many scholars, is in D. A. Trotter, Medieval
French Literature and the Crusades (Geneva, 1988), 31–70. See also Rousset, Idéologie (as in note 6), 51–57; Riley-
Smith, What Were the Crusades? (as in note 10), 12; and A. Dupront, Du sacré: Croisades et pèlerinages. Images et lan-
gages (Paris, 1987), 239–63.
M. Markowski, “Crucesignatus: Its Origins and Early Usage,” JMedHist 10 (1984): 158, and C. Tyerman,
“Were There Any Crusades in the Twelfth Century?” EHR 110 (1995): 575.
[ 12 ] Historiography of the Crusades

century.52 The fourteenth-century French crusading propagandist Philippe de Mézières

called the crusade “the hunt of God . . . to capture the rich prize,”53 and for Fuller in the
seventeenth century it was simply the holy war. The participants in the crusades were
normally referred to in the early sources as pilgrims or Christians or, depending on the
writer, as milites Dei or Christi, pauperes, or Hierosolymitani and later as cruciferi and crucesig-
nati, though some of these terms could also apply to pilgrims. In Old French sources the
crusaders were called pèlerins, croisés, or Franks. Collectively they were the populus, plebs,
gens, militia, or exercitus Dei, and their enemies were infideles, barbari, and pagani.
Nothing in this terminology clearly distinguished the crusades from pilgrimages, and
it offers little or no guidance to scholars seeking to define a crusade. Those who want a
strict definition mostly agree on the importance of taking the cross, making a vow, and
the granting by the papacy of spiritual and worldly privileges, though whether the prom-
ise of forgiveness from sins applied to eternal as well as temporal punishments is uncer-
tain. They disagree, however, on the centrality of the objective of a crusade. The so-
called traditionalists hold that a true crusade must be directed toward the east, either to
assist the Christians there or to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher,54 whereas for
the so-called pluralists the defining feature of a crusade, whatever its objective, is papal
authorization. The traditionalists ask where a crusade was going and therefore hold that
the crusades basically ended with the fall of the crusader states in the east. The pluralists,
on the other hand, ask how a crusade was initiated and organized and thus extend the
history of the crusades not only geographically but also chronologically, down to re-
cent times.55
Both approaches present problems. The traditionalists reject, and even regard as a
corruption of legitimate crusading, any crusade not directed toward the east, including
those in Spain and northern Europe, and those against heretics, schismatics, and other
enemies of the church, even when they were called by the papacy and rewarded by
spiritual privileges. These present no difficulty for the pluralists, who find it hard to fit
into their definition the “popular” crusades, which were neither authorized nor sup-

See the charter of October 1212 in S. A. Garcia Larragueta, El gran priorado de Navarra de la orden de san Juan
de Jerusalen: Siglos XII–XIII, vol. 1, Estudio preliminar (Pamplona, 1957), 149, no. 145, and P. Hölzle, Die Kreuz-
züge in der okzitanischen und deutschen Lyrik des 12. Jahrhunderts, Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik 278 (Göp-
pingen, 1980), 34 (and 31–34 generally). For English, see The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., vol. 4 (Oxford,
1989), 85.
Philippe de Mézières, Letter to King Richard II, ed. and trans. G. W. Coopland (Liverpool, 1975), 101. See
J. Williamson, “Philippe de Mézières and the Idea of Crusade,” in The Military Orders: Fighting for the Faith and
Caring for the Sick, ed. M. Barber (Aldershot-Brookfield, Vt., 1994), 358–64.
For Erdmann, Origin (as in note 10), xxi, “Jerusalem was the immediate goal of the campaign (Marschziel ),
but liberation of Eastern Christianity from the infidel remained the fundamental aim of the war (Kampf- or
Kriegsziel)”; cf. xxviii and 348, saying that pilgrimage was “a late addition.”
On the distinction between the traditionalists and the pluralists, see Riley-Smith, in Oxford History (as in
note 5), 8–10, and Housley, Later Crusades (as in note 22), 2–3. Among modern scholars the leading traditional-
ist is H. E. Mayer and the leading pluralist is J. Riley-Smith, whose Atlas of the Crusades (New York–Oxford,
1991) reflects this approach in its breadth of coverage. An attempt to bridge the gap is made by J. Richard, His-
toire des croisades (Paris, 1996), on which see Riley-Smith in the Times Literary Supplement, 2 May 1997, 28, who
says that Richard “does not quarrel with the pluralist definition” but sees “the earlier enterprises” as “Crusades
par excellence.”
Giles Constable [ 13 ]

ported by the papacy but which for some scholars embody the essence of crusading.56
Both groups are uncertain what to do with the so-called pre- or proto-crusades, which
were neither directed toward the east nor summoned by the pope. I have myself been
counted among the pluralists owing to my article showing that contemporaries regarded
the expeditions against the Wends and Muslims on the Iberian peninsula as part of the
Second Crusade,57 but I am reluctant to exclude the “popular” crusades or to deny that
at least a spiritual orientation toward Jerusalem was an essential aspect of crusading.
Von Ranke was the first, so far as I know, to distinguish between what he called the
hierarchical or official and the popular impulse (Moment) of crusading.58 Erdmann also
stressed “the fundamental distinction between the hierarchical and popular ideas of cru-
sade,” where his use of Ideen in place of von Ranke’s Moment reflected his interest in
ideology.59 The traditionalists and pluralists both tend to look at the official aspects of
crusading, but another group of scholars adhere to what may be called a spiritual or
psychological definition that emphasizes the inner spirit and motives of the crusaders
and their leaders. Alphandéry said that “throughout the west the crusade was a project
swept along by eschatological forces, the idea of the proximate coming of AntiChrist,
the conquest of the last days, the belief in the dwelling place of the saints in Jerusalem.”60
For Delaruelle the crusade was a permanent miracle that “originally appeared as a mo-
ment of collective exaltation, like a ‘prophetic’ deed by which a man of God announces
to an entire people that an hour has come, like the meeting with the Savior . . . , a
privileged moment without a tomorrow.”61 These writers and their followers see the
crusades as a religious groundswell of the socio-religious elect, the pauperes, humiles, and
others who made themselves children for the sake of God.62
For them the only true crusade was the First, which was marked by widespread reli-
gious enthusiasm and popular response.63 Some have posited two First Crusades: one

P. Raedts, “The Children’s Crusade of 1212,” JMedHist 3 (1977): 300: “Any definition of the crusade is un-
satisfactory if it does not include the hordes who streamed toward Jerusalem in the wake of Peter the Hermit,
Emicho of Leiningen and so many others.” See F. Cardini, “Per una ricerca sulle crociate popolari,” Quaderni
medievali 30 (1990): 156–67.
G. Constable, “The Second Crusade as Seen by Contemporaries,” Traditio 9 (1953): 213–79.
L. von Ranke, Weltgeschichte, vol. 8, Kreuzzüge und päpstliche Weltherrschaft (XII. und XIII. Jahrhundert) (Leip-
zig, 1898), 71, 80.
Erdmann, Origin (as in note 10), 269, 355 n. 2, and introduction, xxxv.
Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 1:97, 177, 194. Dupront, Du sacré (as in note 50), 290, described
the crusade as “a march to the meeting with the Second Coming at the end of time” and gave further refer-
ences to Alphandéry.
Delaruelle, Idée (as in note 10), 246.
Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 2:36–40, 67, 127–47; Delaruelle, Idée (as in note 10), 122; P. Rous-
set, “L’idée de croisade chez les chroniqueurs d’Occident,” in X Congresso (as in note 15), 560–61; and M. Mol-
lat, Les pauvres au moyen-âge (Paris, 1978), 95, who saw the crusade as “par essence et essentiellement” an affair
of the poor. See V. Epp, Fulcher von Chartres: Studien zur Geschichtsschreibung des ersten Kreuzzuges, Studia humani-
ora 15 (Düsseldorf, 1990), 242–50, on the use of the term pauperes in the work of Fulcher of Chartres, who
used it in a positive as well as a derogatory sense. G. Miccoli, “Dal pellegrinaggio alla conquista: Povertà e ric-
chezza nelle prime crociate,” in Povertà e ricchezza nella spiritualità dei secoli XI e XII, Convegni del Centro di studi
sulla spiritualità medievale 8 (Todi, 1969), 45–80, warned against referring to “the poor as such” in the First
Crusade and argued that in the course of the 12th century symbolic/spiritual poverty changed to literal poverty.
Rousset, “L’idée” (as in note 62), 547, and Idéologie (as in note 6), 19, 61, and W. Goez, “Wandlungen des
Kreuzzugsgedankens in Hoch- und Spätmittelalter,” in Das Heilige Land im Mittelalter: Begegnungsraum zwischen
[ 14 ] Historiography of the Crusades

official, led by the princes who responded to the appeal of Urban II, and the other
popular, led by Peter the Hermit, whose traditional role as the initiator of the First Cru-
sade (which is based on the chronicle of Albert of Aachen and depicted on the frontis-
piece to Fuller’s Historie) has recently found some defenders against the attacks of the
nineteenth-century scholars who asserted the priority of the official crusade.64 Al-
phandéry was particularly interested in the visions, miracles, and apocalyptic signs that
accompanied the First Crusade. By the time of the Fourth Crusade, he said, “the animat-
ing center of the deed of crusade tends to become a symbol . . . the crusade is enclosed
in interior combat.” The whole movement petered out after the Children’s Crusade,
which still expressed “the deep life of the very idea of crusade,” and came to an end with
Frederick II’s negotiated recovery of Jerusalem and the resumption of the “tolerated”
pilgrimages of the early Middle Ages.65
There is, finally, a group of historians who can be called generalists and who broadly
identify the crusades with holy war and the justification of fighting in defense of the
faith—the astonishing effort, as Michel Villey put it, to baptize war.66 They emphasize
in particular the traditional concept of the just war, the ideal of Christian knighthood
that emerged in the tenth century, the regional movements known as the Peace and
Truce of God and designed to protect particular categories of people and to prevent
fighting at certain times, and the efforts of the popes in the eleventh century to mobilize
the milites sancti Petri to support and defend the papacy. Ernst-Dieter Hehl, in an article
entitled “Was ist eigentlich ein Kreuzzug?” (What essentially is a crusade?), rejected
both the traditionalist and pluralist definitions of a crusade as too restrictive and argued
that a crusade was a war fought at the order of and with the authority of God—“a
Deo auctore war”—and that Urban’s innovation was to fit the crusade into “a historical-
theological schema” or “a theology of war.”67 According to this view, the essential fea-
tures of a crusade were to carry out the will of God on earth and thus to win forgiveness
for sins, with or without papal approval. Jerusalem was thus spiritualized, and in practice
a crusade could be directed against any perceived enemies of God, even though the
crusade to the east continued, as Christopher Tyerman put it, to provide “the language
of crusading.”68 In the middle of the thirteenth century, the canon lawyer Hostiensis,

Orient und Okzident, ed. W. Fischer and J. Schneider (Neustadt a. d. Aisch, 1989), 34, who described the First
Crusade as “sui generis.”
J. Flori, “Une ou plusieurs ‘première croisade’? Le message d’Urbain II et les plus anciens pogroms d’Oc-
cident,” RH 285 (1991): 3–27; M. Bull, Knightly Piety and the Lay Response to the First Crusade: The Limousin and
Gascony c. 970–c. 1130 (Oxford, 1993), 256; Ward, “First Crusade” (as in note 9), 264–65; and, on Peter the
Hermit, E. O. Blake and C. Morris, “A Hermit Goes to War: Peter and the Origins of the First Crusade,” Stud-
ies in Church History 22 (1985): 79–107; M. D. Coupe, “Peter the Hermit—A Reassessment,” Nottingham
Medieval Studies 31 (1987): 37–45; Ward, “First Crusade” (as in note 9), 285–87; and D. Lohrmann, “Albert
von Aachen” (as in note 2), 150–51.
Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 2:110, 147, 257. Goez, “Wandlungen” (as in note 63), 42, said that
there was no real passagium generale after 1228/9.
M. Villey, “L’idée de croisade chez les juristes du moyen-âge,” in X Congresso (as in note 15), 593.
E.-D. Hehl, “Was ist eigentlich ein Kreuzzug?” HZ 259 (1994): 297–336 (citations on 301 and 307).
C. Tyerman, “The Holy Land and the Crusades of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries,” in Crusade
and Settlement (as in note 40), 108. Cf. Raedts, “Children’s Crusade” (as in note 56), 301, who said that “I shall
consider as crusades all expeditions, armed or unarmed, whose participants took a vow and intended to liberate
Giles Constable [ 15 ]

while reserving “the vow of the cross” to the pope, wrote that “If the crusade across the
sea (crux transmarina) is and should be preached in order to acquire or recover the Holy
Land, then the crusade against the schismatics on this side of the sea (crux cismarina)
should be preached all the more strongly in order to preserve the unity of the church. . . .
For the Son of God did not come into the world and suffer the cross to acquire land but
to redeem captives and to recall sinners to repentance.”69 This points toward a broad
definition of a crusade, as Riley-Smith put it, as “a holy war fought against those per-
ceived to be the external or internal foes of Christendom for the recovery of Christian
property or in defense of the Church or Christian people,” and carrying with it, one
might add, an expectation, implicit or explicit, of forgiveness of sins for those who par-
The view of modern historians who see the crusades as the beginning of European
colonialism and expansion would have surprised people at the time. They would not
have denied some selfish aspects, including a search for salvation and a desire to escape
unwelcome obligations and to find a new life away from home, but the predominant
emphasis was on defense and the recovery of lands that had once been Christian and on
the self-sacrifice rather than the self-seeking of the participants. Since there was no clear
concept of the crusades, however, their character changed over time. On the one hand,
they became more institutionalized as their various features were defined by the popes
and canon lawyers of the thirteenth century.71 Prudence and efficiency rather than enthu-
siasm became the prerequisites for a crusade, and there was an increasing stress on organ-
ization, regulations, fiscal arrangements, and administrative routines.72 Disagreements
continued, however, even over the nature of an official crusade. In the thirteenth cen-
tury, when the popes used the crusades against any enemies of the church, Hostiensis
said that some people held that it was unjust and dishonest to take the cross against
Christians, and at the Council of Basel in 1420 Alonso of Cartagena argued that a holy
war must be against infidels.73
At the same time, however, the crusades were spiritualized and internalized, as in the
crusading sermons where “the idea of soldiering for Christ is tied inextricably to the
idea of the crusade as an imitation of Christ” and to “a moral and spiritual renewal”
leading the crusader “to Christ’s cross of suffering and physical death in battle.”74 This

Jerusalem and other holy places from Moslem rule or to defend them for Christendom,” and Housley, Later Cru-
sades (as in note 22), 45, 47, 49.
Henry of Susa (Hostiensis), Summa aurea, 3.19 (Venice, 1574; repr. Turin, 1963), 1141. See Villey, “Idée”
(as in note 66), 568, 578–81.
J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (New Haven-London, 1987), xxviii.
The canonists, according to Villey, “Idée” (as in note 66), 593, created the concept and theory of crusade
because they wanted to assure the institution “of a long and solid future.” See the elaborate definition of a cru-
sade in M. Purcell, Papal Crusading Policy: The Chief Instruments of Papal Crusading Policy and Crusade to the Holy
Land from the Final Loss of Jerusalem to the Fall of Acre, 1244–1291, Studies in the History of Christian Thought 11
(Leiden, 1975), 10–11.
Delaruelle, Idée (as in note 10), 246, discussed whether the crusade should be seen as an event or an insti-
Henry of Susa, Summa aurea, 3.19 (as in note 69), 1141, and Cantarino, “Spanish Reconquest” (as in note
14), 100.
Cole, Preaching (as in note 13), 124–25; see 172–73 on “the penitential idea of the crusade.”
[ 16 ] Historiography of the Crusades

concept of the crusade has been called penitential and imitationist. True crusading never
became an institution, according to Alphandéry, who said that by the thirteenth century
“the monk-knight of the preceding age disappears before the vir spiritualis, poor, weak,
predestined to the glory of the saints.”75 Not many scholars today would go as far as this,
but there is a tendency to move away from the factual history of the crusades and their
growing definition—some would say deformation—at the hands of the popes and can-
onists and to take a more flexible view of the crusade as an event rather than an institu-
tion.76 “Crusading is coming to have the appearance of a spectrum of enterprises,” wrote
Riley-Smith, “each with its own personality, united by common elements.”77 And in
an article provocatively entitled “Were There Any Crusades in the Twelfth Century?”
Tyerman argued that “what we call ‘the Crusades’ in fact covered a fragmented series of
military and religious activities that lacked coherence” and that “the First Crusade only
appeared as the beginning of a coherent movement retrospectively when that movement
existed, after 1187.”78
This raises the question, to which no satisfactory answer has so far been given, of the
numbering of the crusades, which differs widely both in the sources and in subsequent
histories. After the first few crusades, Mayer wrote: “The numbering of the crusades
lacks all consistency. Many scholars do not count the Damietta crusade at all and for
them, Frederick II’s crusade of 1228–9 is the fifth and Saint Louis’s first crusade (1248–
50) the sixth. Others count the Damietta crusade but not Frederick II’s. Still others count
the Damietta crusade as the fifth, Frederick II’s as the sixth, and Saint Louis’s as the
seventh.”79 Mayer recently wrote that “Even the numbering of crusades I–IV is a dubious
affair. It is accepted by everyone, but it only counts the general expeditions in which
more or less all of Europe was involved. It made people blind to the smaller crusades.”80
No one, among either the traditionalists or the pluralists, assigns a number to the cru-
sades in Spain or northeastern Europe, the Children’s or other “popular” crusades, the
Albigensian crusade, the Mongol crusade of 1241, and other expeditions that seem to
meet the definition of a crusade and are commonly referred to as such.
Although there was in the twelfth century an awareness of previous crusades, as the
arenga to Quantum predecessores shows, there was no practice of numbering them. When
Ordericus Vitalis in the 1130s referred to the crusade in 1107 as “the third expedition
of the westerners to Jerusalem,” he was presumably counting those in 1096–97 and

Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 2:112, 160, 163. See also his “Citations bibliques” (as in note 11),
149. These views are well on the way to what has been called the myth or metahistory of the crusade: see Rous-
set, Idéologie (as in note 6), 211–13; G. Fedalto, Perchè le crociate (Bologna, 1986), 70; and Dupront, Du sacré (as
in note 50), 34–35.
See the definitions of a crusade by Raedts, cited in note 56 above, and D. Nicol, The Crusades and the
Unity of Christendom, Friends of Dr. Williams’s Library 40th Lecture (London, 1986), 5, who (writing as a By-
zantinist) called it “a campaign for the liberation of a faraway place dreamed up in a fog of pious romanticism.”
Riley-Smith, “History” (as in note 6), 10.
Tyerman, “Were There Any Crusades” (as in note 51), 554, 558, 566 n. 3. He went on to say that “Inno-
cent III transformed one sort of ecclesiastical warfare into juridical crusading.”
H. E. Mayer, The Crusades, trans. J. Gillingham, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1988), 314 n. 117. See also Bull,
“Roots” (as in note 47), 354.
Personal letter, 26 Feb. 1997.
Giles Constable [ 17 ]

1101–2 as the first two.81 It is possible, however, to see the entire period from 1095 until
1107, and even later, as part of the response to the appeal for the First Crusade, of which
the message spread slowly and to which participants responded at different times.82 The
numbers given to the crusades by later writers during the first period of crusading histori-
ography also deserve to be studied.83 Fuller, who ushered in the second period, called the
crusades “the Holy Warre” in the singular, but in his chronological table he distinguished
thirteen voyages (or pilgrimages, as he called them in the text) between 1095 and 1269,
counting separately, in addition to the presently numbered crusades, the expeditions of
1101, Henry of Saxony in 1197, the king of Hungary in 1216, Theobald of Navarre in
1239, and Richard of Cornwall in 1241. Maimbourg and Gibbon both counted seven
crusades, but Wilken used no system of numbering, and some modern scholars identify
the crusades simply by date.
This approach has led to the reformulation and reexamination of various questions
concerning crusading. Among these is motivation, which was traditionally considered
to include both secular and religious motives, of which the respective importance was
assessed differently by scholars according to their religious beliefs and the standards of
their times. To these should be added an emotional or psychological element that was
neither specifically religious nor secular.84 “Sentiment, not strategy, has always been the
dominant factor in the affairs of Palestine,” said the reviewer of a recent book on the
background of Palestinian-Israeli disputes. “An understanding of the problems of Arabs
and Jews [or of Muslims and Christians] in the Holy Land should begin by clearing the
mind of the confusing clutter of strategy and by focusing on the sentiments, or, to put it
more precisely, the passionate feelings, of those concerned.”85 Very little is known about
the sentiments of the crusaders, let alone their passionate feelings, but they certainly felt
a fierce loyalty to Christ and a sense of outrage that his patrimony and tomb were held
by infidels and could be visited by Christians only on sufferance. Many years ago Adolf
von Harnack said that “the enthusiasm of the Crusades was the direct fruit of the monas-
tic reform of the eleventh century,”86 and Erdmann associated the concept of holy war
with the efforts of the popes, and especially Gregory VII, to free the church from the
control of laymen. If lay investiture and lay possession of ecclesiastical property and reve-
nues were abhorrent to the reformers, how much more so the control by the Muslims

Ordericus Vitalis, Historia ecclesiastica, 5.19, ed. M. Chibnall, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford, 1969–80),
3:182. See Riley-Smith, First Crusaders (as in note 20), 9 and 109, citing references in other sources to the
“first” and “second” expeditions.
See the works cited in note 64 above, especially Bull, Knightly Piety.
See Schmugge, Kreuzzüge (as in note 22), 34, on the numbering of the crusades by Carion and Bullinger,
both of whom counted twelve expeditions (reckoning the Third Crusade as three).
On the levels of motivation among participants in the First Crusade, see J. Flori, La première croisade (Brus-
sels, 1992), 225–29.
M. E. Yapp, reviewing D. Hiro, Sharing the Promised Land, in the Times Literary Supplement, 14 Feb. 1997,
A. von Harnack, Monasticism: Its Ideas and History and the Confessions of St Augustine, trans. E. E. Kellett and
F. H. Marseille (London, 1901), 87. Barraclough, “Deus le Volt?” (as in note 8), 12–13, said that “the Crusades,
far from being a unique or isolated phenomenon, were only a particular manifestation of a great spiritual crisis
without parallel until the sixteenth century,” and Miccoli, “Pellegrinaggio” (as in note 62), 46: “La crociata,
nei suoi aspetti ideologici, nasce come tipica espressione della riforma gregoriana.”
[ 18 ] Historiography of the Crusades

of the most sacred of Christian shrines. This is not to say that all crusaders were religious
reformers, but the view that they were motivated largely by greed and self-interest has
been to some extent replaced by an acceptance of their sincerity and idealism, combined
with a recognition that altruistic and selfish motives were unconsciously mixed in the
minds of individual crusaders. According to Riley-Smith, “There can be little doubt
that those who took the cross, and the families who helped to finance them, were moved
on the whole by idealism. The only explanation for their enthusiasm seems to be that
Urban’s message encountered the laity’s growing aspirations and the hand stretched out
by the Church to lay people was suddenly grasped.”87
Not all scholars accept this idealistic and somewhat defensive stance, and several recent
writers have pointed out the failure of historians to take account of psychological, socio-
logical, and economic theory in studying the motivation of the crusaders. In an article
on “The Motives of the First Crusaders: A Social Psychological Analysis,” published in
the Journal of Psychohistory in 1990, the crusades were seen as a way of resolving the
tension, or endemic cognitive dissonance, between the religious ideals and worldly vio-
lence of medieval society. Urban’s crusade offered “the new reconciliation” between the
desire for salvation and the need to fight and became a mass movement because it met a
widespread psychological need.88 John Ward studied the First Crusade in terms of disas-
ter theory, using the so-called Foster scale, and argued that it was a remedial “disaster-
reaction” to the “inflammatory millenarian force,” Muslim advances in the east, and
consciousness of sin in the late eleventh century. He called this “a ‘postmodern decon-
struction and reconstruction’” of the nineteenth-century myth of the official, hierarchial
crusade and concluded that “Crusade is thus interesting not so much for what it was, . . .
but for what contemporaries thought it would be.”89 A very different view was put for-
ward by four economists, none of them specialists on the crusades, in an article entitled
“An Economic Interpretation of the Medieval Crusades” published in the Journal of Euro-
pean Economic History in 1992. They see the crusades in terms of “contemporary eco-
nomic theory” as “(a) a supply-side response to the attempts of the Moslems and Turks
to raise a rival’s (the Latin church’s) cost in maintaining the credibility of its product and
(b) a demand-side attempt by the medieval church to maintain and maximize the value
of its wealth by expansion of market area and monopoly control.” Although the crusades
“claimed to be primarily motivated by ideological or theological fervor,” they were in
fact “an essential part of a wealth-maximizing strategy” both by the church, of which
the monopoly over salvation—called “a pure credence good”—was threatened by the
Muslims, and by individual crusaders who hoped to make their fortunes in the east.90
The views of Voltaire and Gibbon have thus been revived by modern economic theo-
Another old question that has been addressed with new interest in recent years is the

J. Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (London-Philadelphia, 1986), 153.
J. R. E. Bliese, “The Motives of the First Crusaders: A Social Psychological Analysis,” Journal of Psycho-
history 17 (1990): 393–411 (quotation on 400).
Ward, “First Crusade” (as in note 9), 253–92 (quotations on 259 and 288–89).
G. M. Anderson et al., “An Economic Interpretation of the Medieval Crusades,” Journal of European Eco-
nomic History 21 (1992): 339–63 (quotations on 340 and 342).
Giles Constable [ 19 ]

background and origin of the crusades. Some scholars believe that they sprang almost
out of nothing, like Athena out of the head of Zeus, as Alphandéry put it, calling them
“the almost spontaneous outpouring of a prodigious power of collective animation.”91
Others stress the extensive prehistory, reaching back to the early Christian tradition of
pilgrimage, the development of the theories of martyrdom and the just war, the Byzan-
tine campaigns against the Muslims, the changing role in Christian spirituality of Jerusa-
lem, both heavenly and earthly, the emergence of chivalric values and the effort to har-
ness them to the interests of local law and order by the Peace and Truce of God, and the
policy of the papacy, which Erdmann examined especially in the second half of the elev-
enth century. The recent defense of the authenticity of the crusading encyclical attrib-
uted to Sergius IV, which has long been considered a forgery, would carry back the papal
prehistory of the crusades another half century,92 and raises the question of to what extent
the campaigns in Spain in the mid-eleventh century, and later in southern Italy, should
be considered authentic crusades.93
This research has important implications for the study of the First Crusade, which has
been subjected to intensive investigation owing to recent commemoration of its nine-
hundredth anniversary. Among the many questions that have been raised are not only
those, mentioned above, of the content of Urban’s crusading appeal, especially the rela-
tive importance he gave to helping Christians in the east and to freeing Jerusalem; the
role of Peter the Hermit and his army; the massacres of the Jews (were they an intrinsic
part of the crusade or an aberration?); the influence on the chronicles and histories of
the development of the crusade;94 but also how Urban’s message was spread and the
crusading armies gathered; the participation in the expeditions and how they were fi-
nanced;95 the nature of the oaths taken by the crusading leaders to the Byzantine em-
peror;96 and the relation of the Latin histories and chronicles to the Old French crusading

Alphandéry, Chrétienté (as in note 16), 1:9. Cf. Flori, Première Croisade (as in note 84), 231, on whether the
crusade was an end or a beginning.
H. M. Schaller, “Zur Kreuzzugsenzyklika Papst Sergius’ IV.,” in Papsttum, Kirche und Recht im Mittelalter:
Festschrift für Horst Fuhrmann zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. H. Mordek (Tübingen, 1991), 135–53, with references to
previous literature on this disputed topic.
See among other works Cantarino, “Spanish Reconquest” (as in note 14), and Fletcher, “Reconquest” (as
in note 14), 31–47, who denied that the campaigns in Spain were crusades before the 12th century.
According to Erdmann, Origin (as in note 10), 147, “The crusading idea became articulate only after it
had developed in real life.” See E. O. Blake, “Formation” (as in note 17), 11–31, who referred to “a developing
sense of pattern” (21), and C. Morris, “The Aims and Spirituality of the First Crusade as Seen through the Eyes
of Albert of Aachen,” in Saints and Saints’ Lives: Essays in Honour of D. H. Farmer, Reading Medieval Studies 16
(Reading, 1990), 99–117: “The ideas of the crusaders were further, and deeply, shaped by the remarkable expe-
riences of the expedition itself” (99). On the impact of the conquest of Jerusalem on the concept of the cru-
sade, see Goez, “Wandlungen” (as in note 63), 38–39; and on the dispute over the extent to which the idea of
martyrdom emerged during the crusade, see Daniel, Islam (as in note 15), 314–15; H. E. J. Cowdrey, “Martyr-
dom and the First Crusade,” in Crusade and Settlement (as in note 40), 46–56; J. Flori, “Mort et martyre” (as in
note 17), 121–39; and J. France, “The Destruction of Jerusalem and the First Crusade,” JEH 47 (1996): 1–17.
See F. A. Cazel, “Financing the Crusades,” in the Wisconsin History (as in note 3), 6:116–49, and
J. Riley-Smith, “Early Crusaders to the East and the Costs of Crusading, 1095–1130,” in Cross Cultural Con-
vergences (as in note 26), 237–57.
See J. Pryor, “The Oaths of the Leaders of the First Crusade to Emperor Alexius I Comnenus: Fealty,
homage—písti", douleía,” Parergon, n.s., 2 (1984): 111–41; Möhring, “Kreuzzug und Dschihad” (as in note
[ 20 ] Historiography of the Crusades

cycle, some parts of which are older and closer to the historical sources than was once
Among the most important developments in crusading studies in the second half of
the twentieth century has been the attention given by scholars such as John La Monte,
Joshua Prawer, Jean Richard, Hans Mayer, and Jonathan Riley-Smith to the history of
the Latin Kingdom and other crusader states. Prawer, in the introduction to his Crusader
Institutions, remarked on the shift of interest from “the Crusades as a movement to the
history of Crusader establishments in the East” and to “the European colonies on the
eastern shores of the Mediterranean,” especially their constitutional, legal, cultural, ec-
clesiastical, social, and economic history.98 This can already be seen in the Wisconsin
History of the Crusades, which includes chapters not only on the political and institutional
but also on the cultural history of the crusader states. Mayer has in particular studied the
role of the church and ecclesiastical institutions and the chancery of the Latin kings of
Jerusalem.99 The old view of the Latin Kingdom as a classic feudal state, which was based
to a great extent on legal sources, has been increasingly replaced by a view that puts
significantly greater emphasis on the power of the monarchy.100 Meanwhile, there has
been a vigorous debate over the question of whether or not the Latin states should be
regarded as colonies in the modern (and characteristically pejorative) sense of the term.101
A similar array of questions surrounds the history of the later crusades, including the
waning enthusiasm and growing criticism, which is usually seen as developing from a
relatively few isolated voices in the twelfth century, beginning with the reaction to the
failure of the Second Crusade, into the chorus of doubts reflected in the memoirs solic-
ited by Pope Gregory IX in preparation for the Council of Lyons in 1274.102 Norman
Housley in The Later Crusades, however, maintained that “fundamental questioning of
the validity of crusading existed from the start of the movement and was at its strongest

3), 367–68; and R.-J. Lilie, Byzantium and the Crusader States, 1096–1204, trans. J. C. Morris and J. E. Ridings
(Oxford, 1993), 8–28.
See J. Richard, “L’arrière-plan historique des deux cycles de la croisade,” in Les épopées de la croisade: Pre-
mier colloque international (Trèves, 6–11 août 1984), ed. K.-H. Bender, Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und
Literatur, Beihefte, n.F., Heft 11 (Stuttgart, 1987), 6–16. Cf. Trotter, Medieval French Literature (as in note
50), 27.
J. Prawer, Crusader Institutions (Oxford, 1980), xi. Cf. his The Crusaders’ Kingdom: European Colonialism in
the Middle Ages (New York–Washington, D.C., 1972).
H. E. Mayer, Bistümer, Klöster und Stifte im Königreich Jerusalem, Schriften der MGH 26 (Stuttgart, 1977),
and Die Kanzlei der lateinischen Könige von Jerusalem, Schriften der MGH 40 (Stuttgart, 1996).
S. Tibble, Monarch and Lordships in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Oxford, 1989), with references to previ-
ous literature, and J. Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land: Relations between the Latin East and the West, 1119–1187
(Oxford, 1996).
Barraclough, “Deus le volt?” (as in note 8), 16. The question of the crusades as a colonial enterprise and
the crusader states as colonies was posed by J. Prawer, “The Roots of Medieval Colonialism,” in The Meeting of
Two Worlds: Cultural Exchange between East and West during the Period of the Crusades, ed. V. Goss and C. Born-
stein, Studies in Medieval Culture 21 (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1986), 23–38, and debated at a symposium held in
Jerusalem in 1984 and published under the title “The Crusading Kingdom of Jerusalem—The First European
Colonial Society,” in The Horns of Hattin: Proceedings of the Second Conference of the Society for the Study of the Cru-
sades and the Latin East. Jerusalem and Haifa, 2–6 July 1987, ed. B. Z. Kedar ( Jerusalem-London, 1992), 341–66.
P. A. Throop, Criticism of the Crusade: A Study of Public Opinion and Crusade Propaganda (Amsterdam, 1940)
and, most recently, E. Siberry, Criticism of Crusading, 1095–1274 (Oxford, 1985), with references to other
Giles Constable [ 21 ]

in the mid-twelfth century. . . . Fewer such basic doubts were expressed in the thirteenth
century, when the crusade was safely enclosed in the armour plating of a just war frame-
work by such canonists as Hostiensis and pope Innocent IV.”103 For some scholars, how-
ever, the framework was empty before the armor plating was put in place, and true
crusading ended with the Fourth Crusade, of which the diversion to Zara and Constanti-
nople has been the subject of scholarly dispute for more than a century.104 “The question
is basically an unfruitful one,” said Mayer, “and will probably never be settled, yet even
today there is no sign that the flood of literature on the subject will dry up.”105 This is
owing not only to the number and complexity of the sources, which lend themselves to
diverse interpretations, but also because the Fourth Crusade stands for so many critical
issues in the history and nature of the crusades.
The turning of the crusades against Christians in particular raised major questions for
contemporaries as well as for later writers on the crusades,106 not only the traditionalists
who regard the liberation of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as the essential objective of the
crusades, but also the pluralists, because Innocent III disapproved of the Fourth Crusade,
though later popes declared and promoted crusades against Christians. Some scholars
still see the crusades in primarily European terms and as of relatively little importance
to Islam.107 Even an Islamist like Claude Cahen described the crusades as “a western
phenomenon” and “a western fact,” and Francis Robinson called them “mere pin-
pricks” from the point of view of Islam.108 In parts of the Islamic world, however, they
had a profound influence almost from their inception,109 and the impact of the crusades
in the east inspired the critical views of scholars like Runciman and much of the current
hostility to the crusades. Scholars also disagree over the extent to which missionary work
and conversion played a part in the crusades. The desire to exalt (exaltare) and expand
(dilatare) the Christian faith is found in the earliest crusading sources, including the Old
French and Middle High German epics,110 but conversion seems to have played a com-
paratively small role in motivating the crusades before the thirteenth century, when they
began to be seen as “the instrument for opening a country to missionizing.”111

Housley, Later Crusades (as in note 22), 377.
See the bibliographical articles by D. Queller and S. Stratton, “A Century of Controversy on the Fourth
Crusade,” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 6 (1969): 235–77, and C. Brand, “The Fourth Crusade:
Some Recent Interpretations,” MedHum, n.s., 12 (1984): 33–45.
Mayer, Crusades (as in note 79), 201.
Pissard, Guerre sainte (as in note 28), and N. Housley, “Crusades against Christians: Their Origins and
Early Development, c. 1000–1216,” in Crusade and Settlement (as in note 40), 17–36.
In addition to the works of Alphandéry (as in note 16) and Erdmann (as in note 10), see H. E. J. Cow-
drey, “The Genesis of the Crusades: The Springs of Western Ideas of Holy War,” in The Holy War, ed. T. P.
Murphy (Columbus, Ohio, 1976), 13.
C. Cahen, Orient et occident au temps des croisades (Paris, 1983), 7, 179–80, cf. 188–89, and F. Robinson,
reviewing B. Lewis, The Middle East, in the Times Literary Supplement, 8 Dec. 1995, 3.
E. Sivan, L’Islam et la Croisade: Idéologie et propagande dans les réactions musulmanes aux croisades (Paris, 1968).
E. R. Curtius, “Der Kreuzzugsgedanke und das altfranzösische Epos,” Archiv für das Studium der neueren
Sprachen 169 (1936): 53–54.
B. Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches toward the Muslims (Princeton, 1984), 169. See
A. Cutler, “The First Crusade and the Idea of ‘Conversion,’” The Muslim World 58 (1968): 57–71, 155–64,
and Goez, “Wandlungen” (as in note 63), 42–43.
[ 22 ] Historiography of the Crusades

Almost every aspect of the crusades has thus been reinterpreted, often from very
different points of view, in recent years, and both the learned world and the general
public show a voracious appetite for works on the crusades. More perhaps than any other
phenomenon of European history, the crusades hold up a mirror to how the west sees
itself and is seen by others, and as the angle of the mirror changes, so does the view of
the crusades. In the Middle Ages, and down to the end of the nineteenth century, they
were part of contemporary history, and the Muslims, pagans, heretics, and schismatics
were seen as presenting a threat—real or imagined—to the stability of the west. After
the nineteenth century they moved increasingly into the past and were regarded either
with aversion or, later, with an admiration and nostalgia that grew into a myth, at the
same time heroic and barbaric, that has still not been dissipated by research. Meanwhile,
new myths and hostilities have been generated by the effort to relate the crusades to
developments in the modern world and to see them from a non-western point of view.
There is no reason to believe that this process of revision is near an end or that any
agreement concerning the nature and impact of the crusades will ever be reached, given
the changing concerns of contemporary society. Today no less than in the past, therefore,
writings on the crusades must be interpreted in the light of the differing positions from
which they were written.

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